The importance of regional championships

January is always an important month in the cross country calendar as it gives athletes and coaches the chance to test fitness levels after what tends to be a break from racing over the festive period. With local races, league matches, and area championships all taking place there’s plenty to get involved with. But one of the highlights of the month is undoubtedly the regional championships.

The regional championships showcase some of the very best parts of cross country racing in England: the opportunity to run for your county, the chance to race for your club and with teammates, and the potential to be crowned regional champion. Earlier this month, England Athletics travelled south to the county of Somerset where the South West Championships were taking place.

Start of men's race South West Regional Championships

The skies may have been grey and rain was falling towards the end of the day, but this certainly didn’t dampen the atmosphere. With parents, fellow athletes, and sporting fans all turning up to support the runners, it was a great day out for all. We had the pleasure of catching up with Steve Parsons, Team Manager at North Somerset AC, who told us why events such as this one are so important.

“The South West Champs should be looked upon as the big one in the region. This is where you are going to be competing against the best in the South West. So why wouldn’t you want the chance to compete against those athletes? We encourage all our athletes to take part – regardless of age and ability. It’s a great experience for everyone, I think.”

Steve went on to tell us a little bit about his role as a Team Manager, why he enjoys it and what he thought of the atmosphere at the 2023 South West Cross Country Championships:

Video: The role of a team manager. Watch on YouTube.

As is the case with most cross country events, the regional championships give everyone the opportunity to get involved. From under-11s all the way through to master’s athletes, there is a chance for all athletes to enjoy cross country and gain something from the experience. We spoke to U17 athlete Sam Holloway, to hear his thoughts on the event.

“I really enjoyed the event today. I went off with the leaders and ended up in third and then managed to hold on for the rest of the race. The course was very tough, and it was extremely muddy in the woods, but it was good fun and I really enjoyed it.”

Sam Holloway competing at the South West Regional Championships

Sam is typically a track athlete who specialises in the 800m, so this was only his third cross country race in three years. We asked Sam what he enjoyed about the cross country event and what he would say to other young athletes looking to get involved with athletics and running and potentially even different disciplines:

“Obviously, I love the track but one thing I really like about cross country is that you get to be a part of a team. Track is very focused on times whereas cross country is all about positions and scoring for your club or county. I really enjoy that aspect of the sport. For others looking to get involved, I would say go for it. The sport is really rewarding and I’ve made some really good friends through the club and through travelling to different events.”

Congratulations to all the athletes who took part in the regional championships this month and thanks to the event organisers and volunteers for putting on such great events and giving athletes and runners the chance to compete against the best in the region and enjoy the experience.